For the Last Time, the Washington Post Did Not Bring Down Nixon

In his latest blog post, W. Joseph Campbell undertakes the Sisyphean task of discrediting yet another media myth: the notion that the Washington Post was vital to the outcome of Watergate. This widely held belief “is the stuff of legend,” Campbell says. Read on for the full scoop on what really brought down Nixon. Maybe this time the truth will stick.

Getting It Wrong coverThe Wall Street Journal blog “India Real Time” indulged yesterday in the conventional but mistaken narrative of the Watergate scandal, declaring that the Washington Postplayed a pivotal role in effectively bringing down then U.S. President Richard Nixon.”

Effectively brought down Nixon, eh?

Not even the Post buys into that misreading of Watergate history.

As I note in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, the newspaper’s publisher during and after the Watergate scandal, Katharine Graham, dismissed that interpretation, declaring in 1997:

“Sometimes people accuse us of bringing down a president, which of course we didn’t do. The processes that caused [Nixon’s] resignation were constitutional.”

Similarly, the newspaper’s executive editor during Watergate, Ben Bradlee, has asserted:

“[I]t must be remembered that Nixon got Nixon. The Post didn’t get Nixon.”

Such comments aren’t the manifestation of false modesty. Far from it. Rather, they represent candid observations about the peripheral role the Post played in uncovering the scandal that brought about Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Read the full post on Campbell’s blog, Media Myth Alert.